T-Mobile Swaps Manual Cloud Provisioning for Services Portal, Gains Lifecycle Approach to Cloud Across Multiple Platforms and Data Centers
T-Mobile Swaps Manual Cloud Provisioning for Services
Portal, Gains Lifecycle Approach to Cloud Across Multiple
Platforms and Data Centers
Transcript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how a major telecom company has improved its IT
performance to deliver better experiences and payoffs for its businesses and end users alike.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: HP
Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the HP Discover Performance
Podcast Series. I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your moderator for
this ongoing discussion of IT innovation and how it’s making an impact on people’s lives.
Once again, we're focusing on how IT leaders are improving their services'
performance to deliver better experiences and payoffs for businesses and end
users alike, and this time we're coming to you directly from the HP Discover
2013 Conference in Las Vegas. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BrieﬁngsDirect
Our next innovation case study interview highlights how wireless services provider T-Mobile
US, Inc., improved how it delivers cloud- and data-access services to its enterprise customers.
We'll see how T-Mobile walked back use of manual cloud provisioning services and delivered a
centralized service portal to manage and deploy infrastructure better and improve their service
offerings across multiple platforms and across multiple data centers.
To learn more about how T-Mobile enabled a lifecycle approach to delivering advanced cloud
services, please join me in welcoming our guest, Daniel Spurling, Director of IT Infrastructure at
T-Mobile US, Inc. Welcome.
Daniel Spurling: Thanks, Dana.
Gardner: Tell me about the trends that are driving your business now. We know T-Mobile as a
mobile provider, but is this speed, is this competition? What are some of the big top-of-mind
issues for you and your market?
Spurling: To answer that question, I'm going to frame up a little history and go into where T-
Mobile has come from in the last few years and what has driven some of that business shift in
As many know, in 2011 AT&T attempted to acquire T-Mobile When that dissolved, there
was a heavy recognition that we needed to drive greater innovation on our business side. We had
received a generous donation, we’ll call it, of $4 billion dollars and a lot a spectrum. We drove a
lot of innovation on our network side, on the RF side, but the IT side also had to evolve.
We, as an IT group, were looking at where we needed to start evolving within the infrastructure
space, we recognized that manual processes are a very rudimentary way of delivering servers or
compute storage, etc. This was not going to meet the agility needs that our business was
exhibiting. So we started on this path of driving a signiﬁcant cultural shift, and mindset shift as
well as the actual technological shift in the infrastructure space, with cloud as one of the core
anchor points within that.
Gardner: When you decided that cloud was the right model to gain this agility, what were some
of the problems that you faced in terms of getting there?
Not a surprise
Spurling: When you talk about cloud, you have to deﬁne what cloud is. We recognize that
cloud is almost like a progression of where we've been going within IT. It is not
like it is a surprise.
We've been trying to ﬁgure out how to enable more self-service. We've been
trying to ﬁgure out how to drive greater automation. We've been trying to ﬁgure
out how to utilize those ubiquitous network access points, the ubiquitous services,
external or internal of the company, but in a more standardized and consolidated
It wasn't so much that we were surprised and said, "Oh, we need to go cloud." It was more on the
lines of we recognized that we needed to double down our efforts in those key tenets within
cloud. For T-Mobile, those key tenets really were how we drive greater standardization
consolidation to enable greater automation and then to provide self-service capabilities to our
Gardner: Were there particular types or sets of applications that you identiﬁed as being the ﬁrst
and foremost to go into this new model?
Spurling: That's a great question. A lot of people look at the applications, as either an application
play or an infrastructure play, because of the ecosystem that existed when the cloud ecosystem
was kind of birthing, a year-and-a-half ago, two years ago. We started more on the infrastructure
side. So we looked at it and said, "How do we enable the application growth that you are talking
about? How do we enable that from an infrastructure perspective?"
And we saw that we needed to focus more on the infrastructure side and enable our partners
within our IT teams -- our development partners, our application support partners, etc. -- to be
able to transform the application stacks to be more cloud-capable and cloud-aware.
We started giving them the self-service capability on the infrastructure side, started on that
infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) type capability, and then expanded into the platform-as-a-
service (PaaS) capability across our database, application, and presentation layers.
Gardner: The good news with cloud is that you do away with manual processes and you have
self-service and automation. The bad news is that you have self-service and automation, and they
can get very complex and unwieldy, and like with virtual machines (VMs), sometimes there is a
sprawl issue. How did you go about this in such a way that you didn’t suffer in terms of these
new automation capabilities?
Spurling: I'm going to break it into two parts. Look at the complexity of an IT organization
today, especially for a company of T-Mobile's size. T-mobile has 46,000 employees, around 43
million customers. It's not a small entity. The complexity that we have in the IT space mirrors
that large complexity that we have in the business space.
We recognized on the infrastructure side, as well as in the application, test and support sides,
that we cannot automate everything. We had to really drive heavy consolidation and
standardization. We had to make some tough choices about the stuff that we were --
for lack of a better term -- going to pare off our infrastructure tree: different
operating systems, different hardware platforms, and data centers that we were
going to shut down.
We had to drive that heavy rationalization across all of the towers within our IT
space, in order to enable the automation you talked about, without creating a
signiﬁcant amount of complexity.
On the sprawl question though, we made a conscious decision that we were going to allow or
permit some level of sprawl, because of the business agility that was gained.
When you look at server sprawl, there are concerns around licensing, computer utilization, and
stranding resources or assets. There are a lot of concerns around sprawl, but when you look at
how much business beneﬁt we got from enabling that agility or that speed to deliver and speed to
market, the minimal amount of sprawl that was incurred was worth it from a business
We still try to manage it. We still make sure that we're utilizing our compute storage data centers,
etc., as efﬁciently as possible, but we've almost back-burnered the sprawl issue in favor of
Gardner: So with multiple platforms -- Windows, Linux, AIX, Unix -- and multiple data centers
across large geographies, how can you do that without a larger staff? Do you ﬁnd the
centralization possible or is it really pie in the sky?
Spurling: It’s a bit of both. When you look at how much work there is to enable an automation
solution, you almost have to be -- and my team hates it when I use the term -- ambidextrous. On
one hand, you have to continue to deliver for your customers, but you need to prioritize what you
are doing in that maintenance space and shave off a bit to invest in the innovation space.
You're going to have to make some capital investments, and maybe some resource investments as
well, to drive that innovation the next step forward. But you almost have to do it within the space
that you are coexisting in that maintains and innovates at the same time, because you can't drop
one in favor of the other.
We did have to make some tradeoffs on the maintenance side, in order to take some qualiﬁed and
some bright resources that we are excited about in our burgeoning cloud future, and then invest
those resources to continue driving us forward in the technological and also cultural space. We
made a signiﬁcant cultural change too.
Gardner: That was going to be my next question. When it comes to making these transitions in
technology, platform, and approach, I often hear companies say they have a lagging cultural shift
as well. What did that involve in terms of your internal IT department making that shift more of a
service bureau supporting your business like a business within a business?
Spurling: A lot of times when you talk about evolution in either business context or kind of an
academic context, you hear the story about the buggy whip. The buggy whip, back in the day,
was something that everybody knew. About 125 years ago, everybody probably knew someone
who made buggy whips or who sold buggy whips. Today, no one knows anybody who makes or
sells buggy whips.
The buggy whip industry went away, but a brand-new industry emerged in the automobile space.
In the same context. the old IT way of manually building servers, provisioning storage, and
loading applications may be going away, but there is a brand-new environment that's been
created in a higher value space.
As to the cultural shift you talked about, we had to make signiﬁcant investments in our
leadership to be able to help set a vision, show our employees where that vision intersected with
their personal careers and how they continue to move on.
Then, you lead and help them to do that kind of emotional change. I'm not a server builder
anymore. I'm now a consultant with the business on delivering a value, I'm now an automation
engineer, or I'm now delivering future value and looking at new products that we can drive
further automation into. That cultural change is ongoing, and it’s certainly not done.
Gardner: And given that this transition and transformation is fairly broad in terms of its impact,
you don’t just buy this out of a box with your professional services. How did the combination of
people, process, technology and outside your knowledge come together?
Spurling: When we started down the path, we had a lot of people in our teams who were really
excited about making IT better. T-Mobile is full of people who are dedicated and excited about
making T-Mobile the best wireless company out there. They're starting to change the
conversation to make T-Mobile the best company that is enabling people to get access to the
Internet, to their friends, to data, etc.
So the people were excited to jump on, but we still had a knowledge gap. We knew that, from a
leadership perspective, we weren’t going to get the time to market that we wanted, by training
our resources, helping them learn and make mistakes. We had to rely on professional services. So
we partnered with HP very heavily to drive greater, instant-on services in our cloud solution.
On the technology side, we have everybody under the sun from a tooling perspective, but we do
have a signiﬁcant investment in HP software. We made a decision to move forward with the HP
Cloud Suite. Pieces like HP Operations Orchestration (HPOO) or Cloud Service Automation
(CSA), and building out those platforms to be the overarching cloud solution that, for lack of a
better term, created that federation of loosely coupled systems that enabled cloud delivery.
With those tools, with HP professional services, and with our own internal team members, we
created a tactical team that went out there and "attacked cloud," delivered that, and continues to
deliver that now.
Gardner: And I understand you won an award here at HP Discover, so congratulations on that.
Spurling: Thank you. We were pleasantly surprised and thankful for that recognition.
Gardner: Before we close out, and it might be too early in your journey to measure this, but
are there any paybacks? Can you look at results, either business, technological, or ﬁnancial from
going to a cloud model, provisioning with that automation, advancing the technology, making
those cultural hurdles? What do you get for it?
Spurling: I could talk for hours on this one question. When you break out all of the advances
that we've made internally and all the business beneﬁts that have been realized, you can break
them into so many different categories, in green-dollar and blue-dollar saves, in resource saves,
etc. I’ll highlight a few.
When we look at the cloud opportunity and the agility that has been gained, the ability to deliver
things in an almost immediate fashion, one of the byproducts that we may not exactly have
intended was that our internal customers have demanded in the past a lot of complexity or a lot
of signiﬁcant speciﬁc systems.
When we said, you can get that signiﬁcant system, whatever it is, in a couple of weeks or you
can get this cloud solution that delivers 95 percent of what you ask in a couple of hours, almost
always those things that we thought were hard requirements melted away. The customer said,
"You know what, I'm okay with this 95-percent deal because it gets me to my business objective
Though we as IT thought you had to have that complexity, we're realizing now that that
complexity may not have been required all along, because we are able to deliver so quickly. The
byproduct of that is that we're seeing massive amounts of standardization that we could never
have thought would organically be possible.
From an agility perspective, there's time to market. We had a signiﬁcant launch with the iPhone,
a big event in T-Mobile’s history, probably one of the largest launches that we've had. That
required a signiﬁcant amount of investment in our back-end systems because of the load that was
put in our activations and payment inside our systems.
Because of the investments we made in standardization and automation, our cloud portfolio, we
were able to build out that capacity in record time, in days versus what would have taken in
weeks or months two years previously. We were able to support our business with very little lead
time, and the results were very impressive for us as a business. So those two areas, that
standardization and consolidation and that rapid ability to deliver on business objectives, are the
two key ones that we take away.
Gardner: Daniel, let’s close out on the future. When you look to unforeseen events in your
business, it could be mergers, acquisitions, changes in the market, new products, new
applications, do you feel that the investments you’ve made in cloud also puts you in a position to
be able to move rapidly? What future direction do you have in mind for your cloud trajectory?
Spurling: As I said in the beginning, we're just starting with cloud. That’s not fair to say. We are
just continuing with cloud. We've done it in the past. We've used mainframes to distribute it.
Just one step
We’ve done application hosting with the Internet craze into software as a service (SaaS), that
we now are seeing PaaS external to our internal organizations. We're seeing software to ﬁnd
everything starting to have a role. And there is a really interesting play that says, there is no end.
Cloud is just one step in continuing to evolve IT to be more of a business partner.
That's really how we are looking at it. We're making great strides in that space. You talked about
new applications or business mergers, etc. In every single area, we're setting ourselves up to be
closer to the business, to move that self-service capability. I'm not just talking about a webpage. I
am talking about being able to consume an IT service as a business leader in a simple way. We're
moving that closer-and-closer to the business and we are being less and less of a gatekeeper for
technology, which is super-exciting for us to see in the organization.
For us speciﬁcally, we're recognizing that the investments we made in our PaaS plays as well as
test automation as well as some of the dev platforms. We're seeing those start to have payoffs in
the fact that we're developing cloudware applications that are now scalable in a way that we've
never seen before, without massive human invention.
So we're able to tell our business, "Go ahead and have a great marketing idea, and let’s move it
forward. Let’s try that thing out. If it doesn't work, it’s not going to hurt IT. It's not going to take
18 months to deliver that." We're seeing IT able to respond about as fast as the business wants to
We are not there yet today. It’s a continuing journey, but that’s our trajectory in the next 6 to 12
months, and then who knows what’s going to happen, and we are excited to see.
Gardner: Well great, I'm afraid we have to leave it there. We've been learning about how
wireless services provider T-Mobile US, Inc. improved how it delivers cloud and data and
applications to its enterprise customers, and we've seen how T-Mobile walked back the use of
manual cloud provisioning and in order to move to a more advanced and automated approach
and that has delivered some very impressive results.
So join me in thanking our guest, Daniel Spurling, Director of IT Infrastructure at T-Mobile US.
Thanks so much.
Spurling: Thanks, Dana. It’s my pleasure.
Gardner: I'd like to thank our audience as well for joining us for this special HP Discover
Performance podcast coming to you directly from the HP Discover 2013 Conference in Las
I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of
HP sponsored discussions. Thanks again for joining, and come back next time.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: HP
Transcript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how a major telecom company has improved their IT
performance to deliver better experiences and payoffs for their businesses and end users alike.
Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2013. All rights reserved.
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